BRO had a chance to interview Bruin Billy Knight last week. Billy, originally from Westchester High, is a 6-4 senior shooting guard who appears firmly ensconced in the starting lineup at the "2" spot. He's currently averaging 12 points per game (3rd best on the team), making 46.7% of his 3-point attempts (2nd best) and 81.2% of his free throws (2nd best). He's also second on the team in assists at 2.5 per game and first in steals at 1.8 per game.
BRO: You've obviously improved a great deal since you first arrived at UCLA as a freshman. How?
Billy: I've just done it by practicing all the time, doing extra work. There are some players, I suppose, who don't have to practice that hard to become better players, but I'm not that type of player. I really started improving a lot when Jason Kapono came to UCLA. Before that, when I was a freshman, the seniors, players like Toby [Bailey] and JR [Henderson], they never practiced in the off-season. Jason practices every day of the year to make himself a better player. He's also the first player to come to every practice, and the last player to leave. So, I learned great work habits from Jason, and we work out together in the summer, and that's when my game really picked up, and I've improved a lot physically as well, my quickness and leaping ability. Plus, Earl Watson helped me a lot with the mental aspects of the game, taking charges, being physical, just making a consistent effort.
BRO: Now that Earl is gone, who is taking on the leadership role on the team?
Billy: It's really a collective effort, between Jason, Matt, Rico and myself. Cedric is not a really vocal player and he's easing himself into the situation, so he's not ready to take over that role. He also missed the exhibition games and a week of practice before the Maui Tournament, so he's fallen behind in his development, but his day will come.
BRO: Speaking of Maui, did playing in that gym affect the team at all?
Billy: No. It was like a high school gym, and it was pretty hot in there, but we're all from Los Angeles, so we're used to hot gyms. We didn't cramp up or have any physical problems at all.
BRO: What happened against Ball State and Pepperdine?
Billy: I'm not sure. It might have been our effort. With Ball State, I think we were looking ahead to Duke. Hopefully, losing early-season games like this will make us more focused.
BRO: What about the other freshmen, Andre Patterson and Dijon Thompson? What are your early impressions of them?
Billy: I call Andre the "energizer bunny," he just gets us hyped by being out there, he plays so hard and with so much enthusiasm, and he's really skilled around the basket, and he's got that great athletic ability and those long arms. Dijon, he's our top wing player off the bench, he brings a lot of energy like Andre. When I was a freshman, whenever I got into a game I would try to score right away, make something happen. If I played poorly, I'd put my head down and get discouraged. Dijon doesn't have that quality, he always stays positive and you see him playing through the rough times, so he is contributing in a big way every game. He has a lot of confidence.
BRO: How do the seniors help out the freshmen?
Billy: The most important things are the offense and listening. The offense is hard to learn, so we try and help the freshmen as much as we can. And listening to the coaches is really important. Everyone is always the "man" in high school and you come into college thinking you know everything, it's that way with every player. The coaches will try and teach you things and at first you don't really listen, because you figure you're a star, so why should you listen? Then reality sets in, and you realize college is a lot different from high school and you have a lot to learn if you're going to be a good player. So, we are always telling the freshmen to listen to the coaches, to really pay attention, if they want to learn how to be better players, and to play better basketball.
BRO: What have you guys been working on in practice this week?
Billy: Defense. We've been working on defense the whole time. Taking charges, plugging holes on penetration. Also, we're trying to work the ball into the post more, so we have more of an inside-out attack.
BRO: How did your redshirt year benefit you the most?
Billy: Academically. I didn't travel with the team on the road, so I was able to take all of my hardest classes and really focus on my academics. I will be getting a degree in Sociology in the winter. My minor is in African Studies.
BRO: Have you thought of what you might do after school?
Billy: I'd like to play basketball somewhere professionally for a few years, whether it's the NBA, overseas, the Development League. Then I'd like to join the CIA or FBI. My dad worked in the LA Sheriff's Department, so I've always been interested in a career in law enforcement. He started out as a security guard and worked his way up. I have an advantage of a college education and I intend to make the most of it. My Swahili is pretty good, and I learned some French when I was in West Africa, so I think I would be pretty good at that sort of work. I like to travel, and I'm pretty self-sufficient. I wouldn't describe myself as a loner, but I can get along by myself pretty well and I think I'd be pretty good at field work for the CIA, and that's what I'm thinking about right now.
BRO: Thanks, Billy. And good luck for the rest of the season.